The Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America

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Victorian Era through Contemporary Artists’ Lenses

October 28, 2020 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

A Conversation with Stephen Berkman and Stacy Renee Morrison about Photography, Shimmel Zohar, and Sylvia DeWolf Ostrander

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

6:00 PM – 7 PM EST on Zoom


About this Event

Predicting the Past, Zohar Studios: The Lost Years

Predicting the Past takes us on a discursive journey through the nineteenth century into the world of Shimmel Zohar, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe who came to America in the 1850s. Already an accomplished silhouette artist, he became the proprietor of eponymous Zohar Studios, a storied photographic establishment located on Pearl Street in the predominately Jewish Lower East Side of New York. Traveling through the portal of this enigmatic studio into the past, we encounter a Balzacian cavalcade of characters, both winsome and whimsical. This immersive panorama of personages includes phrenologists, ventriloquists, painters, poets, spiritualists, artists, bon vivants, merchants, luddites, and many more, each tableau composed like a single cinematic frame from a long forgotten nitrate film. Stephen Berkman resurrects this vanished world in a tribute to Zohar Studios, working with the archaic glass plate process and photographing through period lenses, still coated with dust of the nineteenth century. He seeks to reclaim the lost world of the mid-nineteenth century even as our own world seems to be disappearing all around us.

The Girl of My Dreams, Sylvia DeWolf Ostrander.

In 2002, a small leather trunk containing the preserved keepsakes of a 19th woman was discarded on a sidewalk in Lower Manhattan. Thus began visual artist Stacy Renee Morrison’s self-proclaimed love affair with Sylvia DeWolf Ostrander (1841-1925).

For almost two decades, Morrison has been on a quest to weave together Sylvia’s life in the 19th century and reimagine it in the world today through her photographs. Stacy Renee Morrison often forgets what century it is. As fate would have it, she met her 19th century best friend in the form of a trunk abandoned on a New York City street. These two women who were born 133 years apart, began a collaboration called The Girl of My Dreams.

Morrison received a grant from the Rhode Island Council of the Humanities to research and make photographs about the trunk’s owner, Sylvia DeWolf Ostrander. She has exhibited her photographs in New York City, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto, Parma, Cordoba, Argentina and Jeouju, South Korea. Her photographs have been published in Harper’s Magazine, Dear Dave, Feature Shoot, Photography Quarterly, and The Providence Journal. In 2020, Morrison exhibited the contents of Sylvia’s trunk for the first time along with her work interpreting Sylvia’s life at the Merchant’s House Museum in Lower Manhattan.

She will speak about her research, what she has uncovered about Sylvia’s life, and how she photographs memories that are not her own in her project titled The Girl of My Dreams.

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October 28, 2020
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm